Champions Again: Field Hockey Thumps Trinity 5–0 to Claim Fifth Nescac Crown


Emma Stapleton

The Panthers celebrate together on Kohn Field after making easy work of Trinity. With this victory, the program now has five Nescac titles to its name (all under head coach Katharine DeLorenzo). This marks the team’s fourth conference title in the past six seasons. Their success has earned them another no. 1 seed and home-field advantage in the NCAA Regional.


The top-ranked Middlebury women’s field hockey team earned their fifth Nescac championship as they swept Trinity 5–0 at their home turf on Sunday, Nov. 5. This conference win grants them an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

The Panthers had maintained their winning streak with Saturday’s semifinal matchup against Bowdoin on Kohn Field, earning another appearance in the conference finals with a 5–2 triumph over the Polar Bears.

Annie Leonard ’18 quickly toppled the Bowdoin defense by scoring within the first two minutes of play for her 14th goal of the season. The Panthers did not let their opponents respond before knocking in another shot: Grace Jennings ’21 tallied the second point for the Panthers, scoring off of an assist from Molly Freeman ’19. Bowdoin was unable to respond to Middlebury’s 2–0 lead until almost halfway into the first 35 minutes. Polar Bear Elizabeth Bennewitz ’19 kept her team in the game, putting up the first of two points Bowdoin would score by the end of the game. But before the first half came to a close, Middlebury’s Erin Nicholas ’21 snuck in a goal past the Polar Bear goalie off of an assist from Jennings, giving the Panthers a two–goal lead heading into halftime.

The second half was silent for the first eight minutes until a strong play led to a Bowdoin score and narrowed the Panther lead. This goal only served to reinvigorate the Middlebury offense as Freeman pushed two shots past the Polar Bear goalie. This 5–2 margin would hold and offer the Panthers another chance to fight for the conference championship.

“Our strategy going into this weekend was to just focus on playing field hockey the Middlebury way,” said Sophia Peluso ’20. “We scouted Bowdoin and Trinity, but ultimately we were confident that if we played our game we would come out on top. There was a sense of calm and confidence throughout the entire weekend, it was a really cool thing to be a part of.”

On the afternoon of Sunday, Nov. 5, the Panthers looked to take back the championship that was stolen from them last year. But, this year they would have to defeat the Bantams to get there.

The Panthers quickly got to work, with Freeman getting her team one goal closer to a victory. She demonstrated her knack for scoring swiftly, punching in her third goal of the weekend off of a rebound within the first ten minutes. Five minutes later, Emma Johns ’20 awarded Middlebury their second point of the game. The Panthers were not satisfied with this two goal lead, as Leonard would hammer in two more shots past the Trinity goalie. Middlebury’s defense proved tough, denying the 16th-ranked Bantams an opportunity to get on the board. This gave Middlebury a comfortable 4–0 lead going into the second half, inching them closer to the title.

But, Middlebury refused to stop there. Freeman guaranteed the Panthers the victory, closing out the second half with the fifth and final goal of the game, thanks to the Panther defense and a stellar performance by Abby Furdak ’21 in goal to secure the shutout and a 5–0 win.

As the second half ran out, the Panthers rushed the field to celebrate their fifth conference title and their automatic spot in the DIII NCAA tournament.

Julia Richards ’20 commented on the team’s preparations for the upcoming weekend:

“Because we don’t know which team we’re playing until Wednesday, our strategy is, as always, to continue to focus on the fundamentals — great first touch, accurate passing and all shots on cage — and prepare for the individual team and their tendencies when we know more.”

The tournament will begin this coming weekend with the Panthers battling on Kohn Field in the regional round. Although they are coming off of a successful weekend, the Panthers are not satisfied, and are looking to make history with a third national title within the next few weeks.